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The hybrid striped bass, or “wiper,” is an artificial cross between a striped bass (Morone saxatilis) and a white bass (Morone chrysops). Hybridization of these two species does not occur naturally. Therefore, hybrid striped bass must be cultured in a fish hatchery situation. Like its parents, the hybrid frequents the open water portions of a lake, feeding almost exclusively on gizzard shad or other pelagic fishes. Hybrids are more tolerant of warmer water and lower dissolved oxygen than striped bass. For these reasons, they can be stocked into a wider variety of waters than striped bass. Indiana's hybrid striped bass stocking program began in an effort to help utilized overabundant shad populations and to create additional fishing opportunities in many of the state's reservoirs.
The hybrid striped bass appearance is a mixture of white bass and striped bass characteristics. Hybrid have a steamlined body with a bluish-black back, silver sides and a white belly. The horizontal lines are usually broken, often forming a “W” pattern above the lateral line. Like striped bass, hybrids have two parallel tooth patches on the center of their tongue. White bass have just one. Hybrids usually weigh 5 to 10 pounds but can be as large as 20 pounds.
Indiana’s hybrid striped bass stocking program began in 1983. Since then, hybrids have been stocked into ten impoundments throughout the state. These include Lake Freeman, Lake Shafer, and Mississinewa Reservoir in northern Indiana, Eagle Creek Reservoir and Cagle’s Mill Reservoir in central Indiana, and Monroe Reservoir in Southern Indiana. In addition, hybrid striped bass populations have been established in the Tippecanoe River with fish emigrating from Freeman and Shafer lakes. Hybrid have also been reported in the White, Wabash and Ohio rivers and several of their tributaries.
Hybrid striped bass, like many hybrids, experience great difficulty reproducing naturally. Eggs and sperm produced by hybrids are usually weak or improperly formed. The same is true of any fry that might be produced by chance fertilization. For this reason, hybrids are considered “functionally sterile,” and their populations are totally dependent on repeated stockings. Fish hatcheries in Texas have supplied a majority of Indiana's hybrid striped bass since the stocking program began in 1983. East Fork State Fish Hatchery, located near Washington, Indiana, began producing hybrids from striped bass and white bass collected from in-state fish in 1986. East Fork now provides most of the hybrids used in Indiana.
Hybrids may be found in a variety of habitats. In some lakes they may prefer fairly flat, shallow, sandy areas. In other lakes, typically the larger reservoirs, they may prefer the more rocky habitats located directly above or below the dams. Best fishing for hybrid striped bass occurs just after sundown or in the early morning just before sunrise. They are caught primarily on artificial baits which resemble gizzard shad. Imitation shad that rattle have proven to be successful at many lakes. In addition, many anglers have been successful using live bait such as night crawlers or soft craws.
Hybrid striped bass have been included with white bass under a combined daily catch limit of 12 fish, single or in aggregate. No more than two of these fish may exceed 17 inches in length. The reason for the combined bag limit is that white bass, when small, are very prolific fish which seldom exceed 17 inches in length and are found in a number of Indiana reservoirs. A small catch limit would unnecessarily restrict harvest of these fish and be unfair to white bass anglers. However, fish larger than 17 inches are probably hybrid striped bass, so harvest of this size fish is limited to two per day. Biologists feel that the combined regulation will allow harvest of white bass and small hybrid stripers, while promoting the trophy fishing concept for larger hybrids.